WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday warned that he “will not go quietly into the night” as President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration prepares to shake up US foreign policy.
Addressing an association of women diplomats, Kerry said he would help ensure a smooth handover of power in his department but would continue to argue for environmental protection, foreign aid and strong alliances.
“We’re going to have one hell of a debate over the next few years, I can assure you, and I can promise you this... I am not going to go quietly into the night,” he said, to warm applause.
The 72-year-old Democrat did not mention Trump by name, but his speech was a wide-ranging defense of policies the incoming Republican and his conservative and nationalist supporters have threatened to overturn.
He insisted the Iran deal had made the world safer by blocking Tehran’s path to a nuclear weapon and the Paris climate accord would help stave off “a dire threat to our security and the future prosperity of our planet.” On the campaign trail, Trump threatened to tear up or renegotiate both these accords and called into question the future of US military alliances, accusing European and Asian partners of not pulling their weight.
“We cannot survive as a fact-free nation,” Kerry declared, urging leaders to heed the warnings of climate science and to invest in green technology rather than a return to coal that Trump advocated on the stump.
“My friends, election outcomes matter, but the democratic process matters much, much more,” Kerry said, acknowledging that fear of a changing world had motivated many voters but decrying the tone of debate.
“After the turmoil of the past few months, it is essential that we restore civility, honesty, and reasonableness — common sense — to the policy debates we have in this country.
“It’s also essential that we not turn our back on the alliances, friendships and principles that have enabled the United States to lead in the world so productively and for so long.”
Trump has yet to decide who will replace Kerry as Washington’s top diplomat when he takes office on January 20 next year.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former general and CIA chief David Petraeus are reported to be the frontrunners for the post.
Trump dines with Romney,
plans victory tour
Trump dined at one of New York’s swankiest restaurants with Romney, his erstwhile foe turned potential frontrunner in the race to become America’s next secretary of state.
After the dinner, Romney offered words of praise for Trump that contrasted sharply with his past criticisms, saying he had been “impressed” by his acceptance speech and subsequent preparations for office, calling it “a wonderful evening.”
“I think you’re going to see America continue to lead the world in this century,” Romney told reporters, saying he had “increasing hope that president-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us to that better future.”
The brash real estate tycoon and the former Republican nominee who lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama were joined by Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus in full view of other diners, who included CNN’s senior White House correspondent.
It was the second face-to-face meeting in 10 days between Trump and the 69-year-old former Massachusetts governor, who savaged him as a “conman” and a “fraud” during the election campaign.
Trump’s secretary of state will be America’s public face to the world who could face the delicate task of reassuring foreign allies alarmed by the president-elect’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Other key posts yet to be announced are the secretaries of defense and treasury — for which US media reported that Trump was expected to name former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin.
But the search for the right diplomat has proved contentious with some of Trump’s inner circle horrified at the prospect of rewarding a prominent critic with such a plum job.
Romney’s distrust of Russia — at odds with a president-elect who has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin — and the respect he generally commands have been touted as qualities by establishment Americans.
It remains unclear how influential the secretary of state would be on crafting foreign policy with Trump loyalist and retired general Michael Flynn already nominated as national security adviser.
Besides Romney, other potential candidates are celebrated general yet scandal-clad former CIA director David Petraeus, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump met Corker, 64, who said that he thought Trump had narrowed the choice “to a very small group of people” and it was important that he selects somebody on the same wave length.
Petraeus, who met the president-elect on Monday, has by far the most foreign policy experience, but was forced to resign from the CIA after showing classified material to his mistress Paula Broadwell.
In 2015, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials, and was put on probation and fined $100,000.